:"For the historical general who fought at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah for the Sassanid Empire, also mentioned in the Shahnameh, see Rostam Farrokhzād."

Rostam (PerB|رستم, pronounced|ɾostæm] , [ɾʊstæm) is a mythical hero of Iran and son of Zal and Rudaba. In some ways, the position of Rostam in the historical tradition is curiously parallel to that of Surena, the hero of the Carrhae. His figure was endowed with many features of the historical personality of Rostam. The latter was always represented as the mightiest of Iranian paladins, and the atmosphere of the episodes in which he features is strongly reminiscent of the Arsacid period. He was immortalized by the 10th century poet Ferdowsi of Tus in the Shahnameh or "Epic of Kings", which contain pre-Islamic folklore and history.


In Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, Rostam is the champion of champions and is involved in numerous stories, constituting some of the most popular (and arguably some of most masterfully created) parts of the Shahnameh. As a young child, he slays the maddened white elephant of the king Manuchehr with just one blow of the mace owned by his grand father Sam, son of Nariman. He then tames his legendary stallion, Rakhsh. The etymology of the name Rostam is from Raodh+Takhma, where Raodh means growth, reaped, developed and Takhma means brave. In the Avesta, the form is *Raosta-takhma and in Pahlavi *Rodastahm [M. Mayrhofer, Iranisches Personennamenbuch I/1, Vienna, 1977] .


In Persian mythology, Rudaba's labor of Rostam was prolonged due to the extraordinary size of her baby. Zal, her lover and husband, was certain that his wife would die in labor. Rudaba was near death when Zal decided to summon the Simurgh. The Simurgh appeared and instructed him upon how to perform a "Rostamzad" (Persian equivalent for caesarean section), thus saving Rudaba and the child.

Haft Khan-e Rostam (Rostam's Seven Labours)

He passes through a hero's journey to save his sovereign, Key Kavus who is captured by the demons (Divs) of Mazandaran. This journey is called "Rostam's Seven Labours" (Persian: Haft Khan-e Rostam):
#THE FIRST COURSE How Rakhsh fought with a Lion:Then Rostam, that world brightening paladin, Departed from his sire and, treating night Like day, made two days' journey into one, not giving Rakhsh repose. Now as his body Failed him through lack of food he reached a plain Where onager abounded, and urged Rakhsh To whom their speed was slow: no beast could ' scape From Rostam's lasso and his horse's feet. The Lion with his royal lasso caught A gallant onager and, striking sparks Upon an arrow's point, enkindled fire With stubble, thorns, and wood to roast the beast. He ate the flesh and threw away the bones; The onager itself was pot and tray. He spied some pasture, slipped off Rakhsh's bridle, Turned him out loose upon the meadow land, And made himself a couch within a reed bed; He deemed it safe though it was fear's own door, For in it was a lion's lair; no elephant Dared pluck a reed. One watch passed, then the lion Came boldly forth and was amazed to see An elephantine form among the reeds, Reposing with a charger standing by. " First," said the lion," I must maim the steed, Then I can take the rider when I please." He sprang at glossy Rakhsh, who raged like fire And lashed out at the lion's head, then firmed His sharp teeth in its back and dashed the beast To pieces by a shift that made it shiftless. When Rostam, deft of hand, awoke and saw How earth was straitened to that ravening beast He said:" O foolish Rakhsh! who bade thee fight A lion? Hadst thou perished ' neath its claws Could I have carried to Mazandaran My helmet, tiger skin, bow, lasso, sword, And massive mace? Had my sweet sleep been broken Thy combat with the lion had been brief." He slept and rested long, and when the sun Rose o'er the darksome hills awoke still drowsy; He rubbed down Rakhsh and saddled him, then prayed To God, the Author of all good, for aid. And continued his way.
#Rostam and Rakhsh cross the Desert.
#Slaying of the Dragon.
#Rostam foils the plot of the Witch, slaying her.
#Rostam punishes the Horse Master of Mazani hero, Olad. The Horse Master calls on his Lord, Olad. Olad then combats Rostam to avenge the humiliation of his Horse Master. Rostam captures Olad, sparing his life on the condition of Olad helping him to track down the "Div-e Sepid" (White Demon), the chieftain of Divs.
#Rostam battles Div-e Sepid's castellan, Arjhang-e Div, slaying the demon. He recovers the key to the stronghold of the White Demon.
#Rostam battles the Div-e Sepid in an epic battle, slays him, and frees Key Kavus. He then installs Olad as the king of Mazandaran.

By far, the most famous and popular story of Rostam in the Shahnameh is Rostam and Sohrab, in which he kills his own son Sohrab, while the two are unaware of the identity of their opponent until after Rostam wounds his son and during their final conversation the two realize they were father and son.

Another of Rostam's most famous exploits was his struggle against the "dēw" (modern Persian "div" "demon") named Akvan, who had initially transmogriphied as a beautiful Onager, ravaging the horse-herds of Persia. When the king was informed of this on-going problem, he realizes that it is not just an onager and it has to be Ahrimanic disguise to damage Iran-Shahr (Aryan Land). After thinking long about who he wants to assign to this task, the king finally decides that nobody other than Rostam can handle the matter. So he commissions Rostam to take care of this problem. Various parts of this exploit are the subject of many beautiful illustrations. The story is fully allegorical but at the same time quite entertaining on the face value.

It is thought that the tale of Rostam and Sohrab is somehow related to the Lay of Hildebrand.

There are some interesting similarities between the legends of Rostam and those pertaining to the great Irish hero, Cúchulainn. They both defeat a ferocious beast as a very young man, slay their sons in combat, are virtually invincible in combat, and are murdered by treachery while killing their murderer on their last breath.

Two Iranian heroes, Rostam and Esfandyar, share Labours stories with Hercules.

Popular esteem

A popular tale of Rostam told to author Afshin Molavi concerns "a friendly wrestling match" between Rostam and the Imam Ali. The two men are equally matched and the contest is about to end in a draw. At the last moment, Imam Ali asks God for help and with divine intervention Imam Ali is victorious in the match. The two heroes shake hand and embrace. Thus, at least for tellers of this tale, Rostam is so dear to the hearts of Iranians he rates only a cut below the sacred Imam Ali, and even Ali needs God to tip the balance against Rostam. [Molavi, Afshin, "The Soul of Iran", Norton, (2005), p.78 ]

Alternate views

It is written by the Royal Central Asian Society in the "Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society" that the struggle between Rustam and the white demon represents a struggle between Persians and invaders from the north, from the Caspian provinces. [ "Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society" By Royal Central Asian Society ]

See also

* Surena
* Shahnameh Characters
* Rostam and Sohrab


External links

*Web Resources
** "Shahnameh", by Hakim Abol-Qasem Ferdowsi Tusi, the complete work (64 Epics), in Persian ( [ ParsTech] ). This work can be freely downloaded (File size, compiled in the form of an HTML Help File: 1.4 MB).
** Iraj Bashiri, "Characters of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh", [ Iran Chamber Society] , 2003.
** [ "Rostam"] , English comic book adaptation of tales from the Shahnameh.
** [ "Shahnameh"] , English translation by Helen Zimmern.
** [ "Shahnameh"] . Helen Zimmern translation.
** [ "Shahnameh"] , Arthur and Edmond Warner translation.
** [ New Translation of 'Persian Book of Kings' - March, 2006] from NPR, and [ "The Epic of Iran" - April, 2006] , from the New York Times. Also, on 14 May 2006, Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winning book critic Michael Dirda reviewed Dick Davis's translation "Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings" [ "This marvelous translation of an ancient Persian classic brings these stories alive for a new audience."] . The illustrated three-volume slipcase edition of this translation is ISBN 0-934211-97-3

*Persian Sources
** [ Complete Persian text]
** [ Shahnameh website]
** [ Shahnameh comic book website]

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